Conway ‘won't accept’ minister post if voted Labour deputy chief

Waterford TD says ‘more humanity and humility’ needed in government decision-making

Labour backbencher Ciara Conway has formally announced her candidacy for the deputy leadership but has vowed not to accept any cabinet or junior ministry if elected party deputy leader. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Labour backbencher Ciara Conway has formally announced her candidacy for the deputy leadership but has vowed not to accept any cabinet or junior ministry if elected party deputy leader. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

 

Labour backbencher Ciara Conway has vowed not to accept any cabinet or junior ministry if elected party deputy leader and will use the position to bring “more humanity and humility” to government decision-making.

Formally announcing her candidacy for the deputy leadership today, Ms Conway said the Labour Party is in crisis and needs to “think differently” to survive. She agreed that “it’s not looking good” for many TDs in the run-up to the next general election.

She has already declared her support for Alex White in the battle for the outright leadership of the Labour Party although Joan Burton remains a heavy odds-on favourite to win that race. The Waterford TD, who made her announcement in her home town of Dungarvan, said “more humanity and humility” are needed in government decision-making and described her proposal to remain outside of the ministerial ranks as “a new innovation” in how the deputy leader’s role is seen.

“We are emerging from a very difficult time, but there are things that have happened and we have made mistakes and I think we need to ensure that those kinds of things don’t happen [again]. I believe that by having a critical voice, by having an analytical voice on the outside of government will make for better decision-making.”

She said her ambition is not to attain power, but to have influence. “For this party, that is in crisis and for it to survive, we need to think differently and we need to be innovative and I think the proposal I’m putting foward is all of those things.”

Ms Conway joins other relatively young TDs such as Alan Kelly (Tipperary), Sean Sherlock (Cork East) and Michael McCarthy (Cork South West) on Labour’s deputy leadership ballot paper. Asked if the membership would elect a deputy leader who is in jeopardy of losing their seat at the next election, as many Labour TDs are, she said: “If you look at any of the critical analysis that’s been done post the local election, it’s not looking good for anybody. I think now is the time to stand up and be counted, to take a risk, and I think by doing that and by being a critical voice in government and across the ministerial positions the Labour Party will hold, I think that’s going to be hugely important and significant.”

Remaining outside ministerial office would help her steer the Labour Party back to its traditional values, she said. “There is a bubble that exists when people enter ministerial or minister of state roles and I want to be the voice outside that bubble.”

She does not favour a Labour withdrawal from the government: “I’m committed to staying the course with this government but I do think that humanity and humility are needed when we come to decision-making and I think that having a critical voice outside of cabinet will lead to better decision making.

Ms Conway, Mr McCarthy and Mr Kelly are all first-term TDs while Mr Sherlock, currently minister of state at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, is in the Dáil since the 2007 general election.

A former social worker with the HSE and child protection worker with Barnardos, Ciara Conway entered politics in 2009 when she won a council seat in Dungarvan and then successfully ran in the Waterford five-seat constituency in 2011.